Monday, February 26, 2007
Did "Marie Antoinette" deserve more?
"The Academy hasn't picked the best film of the year as the Oscar winner in at least ten years, in my opinion, nor are they above handing the big prize to a film that's not only unworthy, but legitimately bad. [...] No matter which film walks away with Oscar -- whether it's Babel, The Departed, The Queen, Letters From Iwo Jima, or Little Miss Sunshine -- a really splendid work of art, Marie Antoinette, will go unrewarded.
Normally, this is the part of the piece where I would launch into how all the critics were wrong and I was right, but the odd thing about the oversight of Marie is that the major critics seemingly agree with me.
Released back in October, before the calculated late-December releases begin muscling their way into the voters' memories, Marie was greeted by an ebullient four-star review by Roger Ebert. The Los Angeles Times' Carina Chocano seconded, calling the film "startlingly original," which it is.
The Times A.O. Scott remarked -- "What to do for pleasure? Go see this movie, for starters."
The Washington Post, Salon.com, The Hollywood Reporter, The Philadelphia Enquirer, Entertainment Weekly, and smaller outlets like Slant.com all heaped praise on the film, and declared it to be among the best of the year.
Add in the pedigree of the director -- an important young filmmaker and prior Oscar winner, Sofia Coppola -- and it seems like the film would have been swept along by the tide until finally walking away the big winner tonight. Instead, the film will have only one opportunity to win an Oscar, in the throwaway category of Best Achievement in Costume Design. Yes, the costume work is good, but let's not kid ourselves -- it's a booby prize for a serious film, if it's won at all.
The most charitable explanation for why Marie was snubbed on the Best Picture and Best Director fronts this year would be that the Academy members have simply become too involved in 'protecting' the Awards from criticism. As we've seen this year with some Best Picture nominees, the studios are not above coopting the general media to more or less force the Academy to either nominate a desired film or be prepared to pay hell for it in 'Why did Film X get snubbed?' stories. The Academy is notoriously vulnerable to media pressures, and probably simply couldn't fit Marie in amongst all their more important considerations, like making sure Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and other luminaries get their supposedly just desserts. [...]
A less charitable and more likely explanation is that the voters simply no longer pay enough attention to the tide of films that come rolling by each year to pick out the best ones. They have a foggy idea of what they are being bashed over the head to nominate, so they roll over without much of a fuss and nominated it. They know enough to zig where the Globes zag, but that's just a self-preservation instinct, not any sign of moxy. I have to tune in and watch the Oscars tonight, but don't mistake that for actually thinking that what we're covering is actually anything of great importance. It's high-school writ large -- the bullies and the popular kids will muscle their way onto the main stage, while the special kids will sit back in the shadows and wait to be recognized
later. The special, eggshell world created in "Marie Antoinette" is a remarkable filmic idea brought to life and one that doesn't need the stamp of approval of a bunch of 70-year old retired make-up stylists." -by Ryan Stewart.